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How Georgia Became O'Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  595 ratings  ·  112 reviews
A fresh, revealing look at the artist who continues to inspire new generations of women.
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published November 15th 2011 by skirt! (first published November 1st 2011)
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Jun 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club-books
If this hadn't been the selection for our book club this month I would have stopped reading it after the first two chapters. I found the author's style intensely irritating and, given the comments she made throughout the book, I have no faith it was thoroughly researched. She gives advice that is often ridiculous and (at times) contradictory. This author chooses fascinating subjects (O'Keeffe, Hepburn, Chanel), but her style made it very difficult for me to pick up the book at all, let alone ...more
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: library-book
It's a new book and it's about O'Keeffe, whom I love beyond reason, so of course I had to read it. Turns out the book is a weird self-help / memoir / biography thing with a profusion of allegedly pithy footnotes, that came off as being self-indulgent.
Jan 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this for my local Book Club. We're planning a trip down to Ghost Ranch (though I don't know if I'm going to be able to go yet).

Karbo's approach to this biography is an interesting one. She works steadily through the historical details of O'Keeffe's life, art, and marriage in the context of "lessons" that the reader can apply to her own life. I don't usually enjoy this kind of "self-help" style, but Karbo's self-deprecating, this-is-my-life-too anecdotes made it much more tolerable.
Claudia Turner
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Karbo describes the essence and soul of O'Keeffe with quirky humor, and it's refreshing to see something aside from a traditional and stuffy biography delving into the how of an artist as opposed to merely the what.
Feisty Harriet
I bought this in anticipation of my first visit to New Mexico, the land O’Keeffe loved and used as inspiration. I had high expectations of a brilliant biography with memoir-type nuggets sprinkled throughout (an expectation gleaned from reading the summary and a few positive reviews online). Expectations shattered. It sucked. Karbo has a very loosey-goosey way of researching O’Keeffe’s life, and perhaps 75% of the text is the author dithering on her own life, her own (uninteresting) experiences, ...more
Apr 24, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: bookclub
I read this for bookclub. Was looking forward to it because I love Georgia O'Keeffe - I was in Albuquerque for a conference years ago, and one of the highlights of the trip was the day we "played hooky" and went to the Georgia O'Keeffe museum in Santa Fe. She was an outstanding individual and a strong personality. I love looking at her paintings.

I liked learning more about O'Keeffe's life. Was she ahead of her time, or was she the type of person who would seem out of place in any time? She
Oct 05, 2012 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one
I read this book in order to learn more about Georgia O'Keeffe and to participate in a museum book club event. While I am happy to learn more about O'Keeffe, about her life, her opinions, and especially her work, I found this book very skimpy in all those areas. Instead, Karbo fills us in on cutesy stuff about life as a woman dealing with overbearing men, about less than supportive parents, about all varieties of current and discredited pop-psychology, about the advantage of having your mother ...more
Jan 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
This is an entertaining book written with wit in Karbo’s unique style. She doesn’t write the traditional biography, but talks about Georgia O’Keefe’s life and what she did in terms of today’s culture. Her tone is conversational and funny.

It fascinates me that O’Keefe paid absolutely NO attention to clothing fashion or convention. She wore no makeup and sewed her own long black sheath-like dresses. She pulled her dark hair straight back from her face and most often wore it in a bun. Can you
Apr 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: not-gunna-do-it
I'm not going to be able to finish this one. The author's opinions and personal experiences are too much for me. I tried to gloss over the initial autobiographical tidbits and even the author's opinions on that obnoxious buzzword, free-range parenting. The last straw was when she bragged about meeting her significant other on EverQuest and then proceeded to intimate that online gaming is the one and only way to get to know potential mates, now that writing letters and even sending email have ...more
Nov 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Don't read if you want any kind of actual biography of O'Keeffe-but do read if you want to be entertained and still pretend you're learning about her. This lady is pretty hilarious.
Susan Vollenweider
I read a lot of non-fiction, a lot of serious non-fiction--this is not that book...and how refreshing! Although the facts are a' plenty, I don't recommend this as your sole biography of Georgia O'Keeffe because it's part author memoir. But what I do recommend it as (besides a really fun, chatty read that will hit all the high points of Georgia's life and some of her art) is an example of the answer to: How did Georgia affect the author's life? This book will give you an example to answer:How ...more
Ann Tracy
Jul 18, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
so many good art books in the world. skip this one unless you're just looking for fluff that doesn't seem realistically related to georgia o'keeffe in any shape or form.
Nov 18, 2017 rated it did not like it
i had to read this for a class and i would like the time i spent reading it refunded, please and thank you.
Carye Bye
Feb 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
While I do have an art history degree I don't read a lot of art history books since the text book days but this is an art history meets pop culture meets memoir meets humor book all rolled up in one and I approve. I couldn't put it down and couldn't wait to read more when I had to put it down. This book was reviewed in a local paper and clipped the article and put in a pile: to read later. And one day recently ordered all the books I meant to read from the library. Many I have returned briskly. ...more
Nov 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
Whoever thought that reading a biography could be such PuredeeLight?!! Okay, for those of us with Insatiable Curiosity (bordering on the Kipling 'Elephant's Child' kind), ALL biographies portend to be entertaining in some way. I'm dubbing Karbo the 'Dave Barry' of biography and now am scrambling to find all of her books,or at the very least, all her "kick-ass women" trilogy (as she calls them) to devour (metaphorically speaking, of course).

I confess, I'm one of those who savors EVERY aspect of a
Dec 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
In the eighties I considered Georgia O'Keeffe the closet I would come to having a mentor. I was a writer she was an artist in her nineties. What I saw in her work was freedom, a freedom that existed for women if they jumped into life with both feet. I saw strength to strike out on one's own. I only read one biography and found it dull. Mostly I relied on her art: the bones, flowers, and skyscrapers. When I heard an interview with Karen Karbo, I decided maybe I'd see what she had to say about ...more
Jun 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this light-hearted yet factual account of Georgia O'Keeffe's life and art.
The author sets her book apart from the myriad other O'Keeffe bios by getting to the heart of what many readers are after--what was Georgia O'Keeffe really like--without making it a weighty dissection.
I personally loved the footnotes scattered about the pages, for they made the book seem like a fun conversation.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Sep 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Now I see why others have raved so much about this story. It’s the life of artist Georgia O’Keeffe, but you won’t find this story in the encyclopedia. It’s a tale beautifully, cleverly, wisely told with hundreds of little personal asides and footnotes. I think you will love it. I’m pretty sure you will.
Oct 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Karen Karbo is a true, contemporary story teller. In this telling of Georgia O'Keeffe's life and genius, Karbo can't help but interject her own hilarious, sharp-witted opinions along the way. In this case that's a good thing.
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
I loved this! So irreverant and an entertaining read. I am dying to read her books about Hepburn and Chanel
Leslie Goddard
May 30, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a hard one to review. On the one hand, I loved the idea of mixing a biography with lessons you can apply to your own life. O'Keeffe is a great person to draw life lessons from, and Karbo does a good job of pointing out how O'Keeffe is a good role model.

It's also a nicely condensed biography -- she covers O'Keeffe's life but not in excruciating details, so it's good for those who don't enjoy exhaustingly long non-fiction biographies. (Although I did notice a few errors).

But on the other
Written in a very casual, personal style, and with humor and personal asides, this books makes for a compelling read apart from the usual scholarly work on a noted artist. I'm going to be seeking out her other books on Chanel and Hepburn and the memoir of her father's last days. Who thought reading about Georgia O'Keeffe could be amusing? The author raises the usual questions of any woman in the spotlight or who achieves fame through her creativity. What is sacrificed? Family? Children? How ...more
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Note that Karbo is not your ordinary biographer. She delves into Georgia O'Keeffe's life because she wants to learn from her ("lessons on the art of living"!) and she does not pretend much less try to be unbiased, objective, or removed. And thus she has multiple interjections of asides (humorously marked as footnotes at times), uses her own first person, and draws her own conclusions about what O'Keeffe, without meaning to at all, could teach us all. I frankly relished it. The book was light, ...more
Jennifer Grimm
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
I found myself wanting to set this book down many times, but instead I held out hoping for some mystic O'Keeffe insight tucked away in the final pages.

In this book, the author meets with a notable O'Keeffe scholar for an interview and admits to not having read much of the scholar's work. And earlier, Karbo jabs at the great length of the O'Keeffe Museum's lengthy bibliography list. This lead me to question the author's rigor for research.

The many useless footnotes that littered nearly every
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm one of the lifetime fan girls of all things O'Keefe, having come of age in the 70's and living outside NYC it was part of my rite of passage to spend hours trekking around to find the places, the Art, the mystique that was available to me with the purchase of a bus ticket.
This little book took me back to those days and I enjoyed very much. Sure its not going to win any book awards, but it was fun and easy to read, and I thought the footnotes were cool. I did not have to read this book for a
Kathy Rushing
Aug 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
This was my 2nd time to read this delightful book about O'Keefe. The author, Karen Karbo, inserts her tongue-in-cheek humor throughout. I go the O'Keefe museum in Santa Fe every time I visit, never tiring of the story of Georgia's determination to paint or draw the natural world as she saw, and to live life on her own terms.
Miranda Morvant
Feb 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings about the footnotes: I thought they were hilarious and made me literally laugh out loud; however, it was frustrating to have to pause my reading to look down, read the footnote, giggle about it, then have to go back and find my place in the book.
Gwen Menz
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked this book quite a bit, as it’s not written in a dry names/dates/places manner. Weaving insights and comparisons to herself, Karen Karbo brings Georgia alive as I’ve never imagined.
Jm Besaw
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
love love love this book
Leslie Clark
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Taos New Mexico O'Keefe Museum and Ghost Ranch hiking inspired me to learn more about Georgia the artist. Fun read.
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Karen Karbo's first novel, Trespassers Welcome Here, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and a Village Voice Top Ten Book of the Year. Her other two adult novels, The Diamond Lane and Motherhood Made a Man Out of Me, were also named New York Times Notable Books. The Stuff of Life, about the last year she spent with her father before his death, was an NYT Notable Book, a People Magazine ...more
“A literary expert friend once told me that the way to teach your child to love and respect reading is not to read to them, but rather to refuse to allow yourself to be interrupted while you're reading.” 3 likes
“O'Keefe is the poster child for doing exactly what you want, in the service of an abiding passion.” 2 likes
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